The Stand, Part III

The Stand - Cover1,140 pages later, I was finished. And, I have to say, I was a little disappointed.

There are probably a lot of people out there who would read that last statement and start hurling rocks and insults my way. Before you reach for your rotten tomatoes, listen to me. It’s just the ending that disappointed me.

The first two parts of the book were phenomenal. Stephen King spends 900 pages building up the story and building up the characters, preparing everything for what promises to be an amazing climax. But then you get to Part III and you realize you’ve only got about 230 pages left in which to wrap things up. Is that really enough?

As with my first two sections of this review, spoilers abound. So if you haven’t read the book or seen the mini-series, you may want to avert your eyes.

At the end of Part II, we left off with the death of Mother Abigail and the sending of our four missionaries: Stu Redman, Larry Underwood, Ralph Brentner, and Glen Bateman. Earlier, the good guys had also sent a handful of spies out west, just to check on Randall Flagg’s operation.

Part III picks up with our spies and what became of them. Two of the spies, Judge Farris and Dayna Jurgens, met very unfortunate ends. The third, Tom Cullen, managed to spend his time in Vegas, then get away undetected. And this seems to be the beginning of the end for Flagg.

While not omniscient, and certainly not omnipresent, he has a vast range of abilities that allows him to know certain things and be in certain places. But these powers seem to be crumbling. He’s losing his grip on his people and on his reality.

Meanwhile, the four wanderers from Boulder are slowly, but steadily, making their way across the west. Tragedy befalls when Stu takes a tumble and breaks his leg. He insists that the others leave him behind, knowing that this was all part of God’s plan, as explained by Mother Abigail on her deathbed. The other three eventually find their way to Las Vegas and are taken into custody.

Glen, Larry, and Ralph are taken to jail and held separately. Glen is unceremoniously executed when he mouths off to Flagg. The other two are put on display for the Las Vegas population and are sentenced to public execution for crimes that they never committed. Suddenly there’s another example of Flag losing his grip when one of his upper-level lackeys speaks out against their leader’s current actions. Flagg shoots some kind of lightning from his finger and incinerates the lackey, then basically dares anyone else to speak out.

Suddenly, from the back of the crowd, comes the Trashcan Man, the pyromaniac whom Flagg set to burn. Along with him is a nuclear warhead. Flagg begins to panic. His right hand man, Lloyd, attempts to get Trashcan to leave and take the bomb with him. But it’s already too late. The Hand of God intervenes and detonates the A-bomb, obliterating Las Vegas and everyone in it.

And this is where I have my problem. Reading this book, from start to finish, it’s as if King spent all this time building up to the climax for the first 900 pages, then got tired of writing about it. It’s like, one day, he just sat down at his typewriter and decided that he just needed to wrap things up as quickly as possible, so he could move on and get The Dead Zone finished.

There really isn’t an explanation as to why Flagg’s powers started to fade. There seems to be no real reason as to why his own people begin to doubt his power. Sure, they’re still afraid of him, but they begin to realize that they made the wrong choice when making their way across the country. All of a sudden, things fall apart for the bad guys, and even though a few of the good guys have to be sacrificed, good just happens to triumph over evil? I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it.

Not that quickly anyway. I can absolutely buy into the idea that God would sweep in and take out, well, whomever He wanted to. It just seems lazy to me, to spend so long building and building and building, and then suddenly, without much confrontation at all, we’re at the end. It’s all very deus ex machina.

Overall, I thought the book was pretty good. I’m basing that mostly on the first two parts. If I was just judging things based on Part III, I couldn’t say the same. It isn’t that the last 240 pages wasn’t well written. It just felt lazy. What do you think, those that have read it? Agree? Disagree? I’m interested to know what others have thought about this novel.

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